Lake Ontario, ON - Loren King
My Watermark is Lake Ontario.
I grew up on the lake and I have a lot of memories of how the lake has changed. I wouldn’t have swum in it as a kid, I never really imagined it as a place where you’d go to have fun and jump in the water.
I left Canada to study for about 10 years and one of the striking things for me was coming back and just getting in the lake and seeing how much things had improved. Still a lot of problems but obviously there’s still a few things we’re doing right, making the water swimmable.
When I came back I got back into open water swimming and fell in with a bunch of crazy neer-do-wells who do crazy swims in big bodies of water. I’ve been having a lot of adventures with them in Lake Ontario in particular and the Great Lakes more generally.
Back in August, we crossed Lake Ontario. I swam the classic Marylin Bell route. We started Niagara on the Lake on a beautiful evening, swam into the sunset and arrived at Toronto the next day at Marilyn Bell Park not far from where we are right now.
And of course you know this because Lake Ontario Waterkeeper joined us for part of the swim while you were sampling in the outer harbour which was a lot of fun. It was a great inspiration because after 12 odd hours of swimming you think “Well we can just turn around now and no one will know.” But then the Angus Bruce showed up and we thought, “Well we’ve got to finish this thing!” So we swam on.
It was just a beautiful, beautiful experience. It’s a lot of work, it’s exhausting, your shoulders are very sore. We swam 51 km the entire route.
You hear a lot about the experience of swimmers on that particular route. It’s exhausting you often start at night or start in the evening and swim into the night. The night is challenging but for us, we had such a beautiful day. Watching the sunset on the lake and the city grow on the horizon ahead of you and the stars overhead. It was just very peaceful. The lapping of the water and the gentle push of the waves.
It was a clear swim, when Marylin Bell first swam the lake back in 1954 she had to deal with things like lampreys, we didn’t encounter any wildlife. There were some bunches of weeds but for the most part, fairly clear. Obviously when we arrived in the outer harbour and then got into Toronto Harbour, the water quality changes somewhat, we were swimming through some pretty heavy weeds to get to the actual finish at Marylin Bell park. But for the most part it was a clear swim, beautiful lake.
I would probably do it again. I find myself now, I’ll just be driving somewhere or taking the bus and I’ll stop and find myself staring at the lake and remembering things. Just the sensations, the smells, the tastes, the sounds. It’s captivating, it’s oddly captivating. When you’re doing it, it’s exhausting and you think, I will never, ever do this again but now as you think back and that visceral connection with the water, it was important for me. I hope for everyone else the lakes have that kind of importance and we can find a way to remind them how important they are.